The Northern Virginia community in Alexandria welcomes a new imam for the ICNA masjid.
Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan is a graduate of the Islamic University in Madinah Munawwarah, in the faculty of Shari’ah (Islamic Jurisprudence) specializing in Islamic Inheritance. He attended the university from 1982 to 1989.
His soft accent gives away that he is originally from Guyana, South America. Sh. Abdool Rahman Khan is a father of two daughters and one son. Currently, his son is a student in Madinah University, his elder daughter is attending medical school and the younger one is completely 10th grade in Chicago. ”My family will join me here in Virginia after her school year,” says Sh. Khan in an interview with the Muslim Link.
He is the former Principal of the Guyana Islamic Institute and also of Al-Rahmah School, Baltimore, MD. He served as the resident scholar and Imam at Masjid Tawheed in Oakbrook Terrace, IL. As the Resident Scholar and Khateeb at Islamic Foundation, Villa Park, Chicago, IL for 13 years, he was outspoken and actively involved in the field of religious dialogue and social issues.
He is also the chairman of the Shari’ah Council of Islamic Circle of North America and a member of the Fiqh Council of North America.
Space is the biggest challenge that the Imam sees at the, even though the facility was just completed, it is already too small for the growing community.
“One positive thing here is that I am very comfortable with the board of directors here,” he says. The board has told the imam that he is in charge.
“There is a great difference in how an Imam is treated as a leader of the community rather than [just] an employee,” he says. Sh. Khan thinks that a lot more can be done in guiding the community when the imam has more authority, and doesn’t have to dance to the tune of the BOD.
The community is more diverse than his congregation in Illinois, which is a great blessing in his eyes. Most of them in Virginia are immigrants. “We learn about Muslims from around the globe and when things aren’t right then we have an opportunity to rectify,” said Sh. Khan.
The imam has started Aqidah Studies, Tafseer and Hadith classes every Saturday and Sunday morning. Fridays are family nights where issues concerning the family are discussed.
Another program is a potluck breakfast that has helped him get to know the brothers in the community. “ [It] gives us a means to socialize and learn about each other’s culture and food,” says the imam.
He plans on using his experience in Chicago to help the ICNA masjid in Alexandria to do more outreach, joining other interfaith organizations and addressing social issues. “I would like to be the leading effort for the poor and needy; it is a part of our religious obligation,” says Sh. Khan.
Shaykh Khan is a sisters friendly imam. “Sisters are an integral part of the community and, they should have the opportunity to have their questions addressed and to be heard. They should not feel intimidated,” says Shaykh Khan. He plans on holding classes specifically for the women in the community.
One of the challenges facing the imam is reaching out to disenfranchised Muslims. Concerning the pockets of community that has been alienated or have stopped coming to masjid the imam says that he would like to meet with them. “This is the house of Allah,”
The imam does not believe in divisions based on madhhab (school of thought) differences. “Once you make madhab an issue then you are shutting down dialogue,” says Sh. Khan.
When asked about other community organizations emerging in the area, he says that he likes the idea of help in providing services that the masjid is not equipped to provide or doesn’t have the expertise to offer. He would like to have a hand and glove approach with community and youth organizations.
Tolerance and an open door policy are needed to serve as an imam in a diverse masjid. His fingers laced together to emphasize his point, he says “nothing can replace the masjid ...no parallel service, the masjid has to be the focal point of a [Muslim] community.”